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Five Things I Know I Know About Penn State’s 2020 Football Season

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0-15. That “oh” has got to go.

Pittsburgh v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

For those that don’t know, I’ve been doing “Five Things I Know I Know” about Penn State since the 2017 season. They are semi-bold predictions, but legitimately things that I have believed in. Incredibly, I am 0-15.

2017
1. Shareef Miller and Manny Bowen will be 1st Team All-B1G
2. Lamont Wade will lead the team in INTs with 4
3. Bates & McGovern will both be 1st Team All-B1G
4. Saquon Barkley will run for 300+ yards in 2 games
5. PSU will win the Big Ten (again)

2018
1. Tariq Castro-Fields will make 1st Team All-B1G
2. Jan Johnson will lead the team in tackles
3. Justin Shorter will have 40+ receptions
4. Hamler will return 2 punts for TDs
5. PSU won’t make a FG beyond 40 yards

2019
1. CJ Thorpe will get thrown out/will be the reason for someone getting thrown out of a game
2. Fries will make 1st Team All-B1G
3. Penn State’s defense will get 50+ sacks
4. Damion Barber leads DTs in sacks
5. Joe Moorhead will be Penn State’s head coach by mid-December

I regret none of those. Except for the Justin Shorter one. I do regret that one.

But hey, we’re back for another season. This year, I promise to break the streak. That “oh” has got to go.


PAT FREIERMUTH WILL HAVE DOUBLE-DIGIT RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS

I realize that this doesn’t sound like that bold of a prediction, but when you factor in the fact that Penn State is only scheduled to play, at most, 11 games, it becomes quite bold. When you factor in that only one player — Chris Godwin — has had a double-digit receiving touchdown season during the James Franklin tenure, and it becomes even more bold. Then when you factor in it took 14 games for Godwin to accomplish that — well, you see the picture.

New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca hasn’t utilized the tight end all too much at his previous stops, but he also hasn’t had Pat freaking Freiermuth at his previous stops. He’s Penn State’s best offensive player, and I expect Clifford to target him an absurd amount of times this season — especially in the red zone.

ADISA ISAAC WILL LEAD PENN STATE IN SACKS

Penn State returns two pretty darn good pass rushers in Shaka Toney and Jayson Oweh, but I am going with the true sophomore Adisa Isaac to lead the Nittany Lions in sacks. That’s not anything against Toney or Oweh, both of which I think will have strong seasons. But I’m of the belief that Isaac is every bit as good as both of them, and because of that, he’ll see just as many snaps.

Isaac doesn’t have the speed Toney does, nor does he have the otherworldly athleticism that Oweh does, but I think by season’s end, we’ll look at him as the most complete defensive end. Which sure, maybe doesn’t scream “will lead Penn State in sacks” but give me a consistent defensive end that keeps himself in the play, and I’m confident he’ll find himself sacks.

CAM SULLIVAN-BROWN WILL BE PENN STATE’S SECOND LEADING WIDE RECEIVER

Is this a bold prediction? I’m not exactly sure. But it’s clear that despite Sullivan-Brown earning a starting spot in the season opener against Indiana, he continues to fly under-the-radar. I mean, look at the reaction to the depth chart getting released — all the talk was about true freshman Parker Washington, with very few people mentioning Sullivan-Brown.

This isn’t to poo-poo Washington. I’m excited for the true frosh, too, but I fully expect Sullivan-Brown to be a very capable wide receiver that will be a safety valve for Clifford. Sullivan-Brown isn’t going to blow people away with his speed or size, but someone who consistently moves the chain? Heck yeah.

BRANDON SMITH WILL MAKE 1ST TEAM ALL-BIG TEN

Penn State was dealt a big blow when Micah Parsons announced that he would skip his junior season. No way around it, it was bad news for the Nittany Lions. But without Parsons, plays will need to be made by somebody, and fortunately for Penn State, there’s another former five-star linebacker waiting in the wings: Brandon Smith.

At 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, Smith is just as physically imposing as Parsons was, and might just be the better athlete. That’s evidenced by Smith taking over for the departed Cam Brown, who played the Sam linebacker spot which is the non-box spot on Penn State’s linebacker unit. What does that mean? Well, Smith will get to play in space — which considering his lanky frame and quick-twitch athleticism, seems like an ideal spot.

Let me be clear: Smith, in 2020, isn’t going to be better than Parsons. But that doesn’t mean he won’t play at an all-conference level. Expecting big things from No. 12.

C.J. THORPE WILL GET THROWN OUT/WILL BE THE REASON FOR SOMEONE GETTING THROWN OUT OF A GAME

If you have ever watched CJ Thorpe on a football field, you will understand why I am doubling down on this for another season. Come on, CJ.